Poison dart frog is the common name of a group of frogs in the family Dendrobatidae which are native to Central and South America. Unlike most frogs, these species are active during the day and often exhibit brightly-colored bodies. Although all wild dendrobatids are at least somewhat toxic, levels of toxicity vary considerably from one species to the next and from one population to another.
These amphibians are often called "dart frogs" due to indigenous population's use of their toxic secretions to poison the tips of blowdarts. In fact, of over 175 species, only three have been documented as being used for this purpose (curare plants are more commonly used), and none come from the Dendrobates genus, which is most characterized by the brilliant color and complex patterns of its membersMost species of poison dart frogs are small, sometimes less than 1.5 centimetres (0.59 in) in adult length, although a few are up to 6 centimetres (2.4 in) in length. They weigh about 2 grams, depending on the size of the frog. Most poison dart frogs are brightly colored, displaying aposematic patterns to warn potential predators. Their bright coloration is associated with their toxicity and levels of alkaloids. Frogs like the ones of Dendrobates species have high levels of alkaloids, whereas the Colostethus species are cryptically colored and are non-toxic. Unlike most other frogs, they are diurnal, rather than being primarily nocturnal or crepuscular. They lay their eggs in moist places, including on leaves, in plants, among exposed roots, and elsewhere, and allow the tadpoles to wriggle onto their backs shortly after they hatch. They then carry the piggy-backed tadpoles to water, where the larva remain until metamorphosis. The water is typically a pool, but some species use the water gathered in bromeliads or other plants; and some species provide food, supplying the tadpoles with unfertilized eggs to eat
Poison dart frogs are small, brightly colored frogs from Central and South America. There are nearly 250 species that come in colors ranging from dark purple-blue, to bright neon yellow, to tan and black, and any combination of colors in between. The bright colors display by some species warn potential predators of their poisonous nature. Fortunately, poison dart frogs born in captivity are not poisonous. All species are diurnal, and because they are diurnal and brightly colored they are becoming increasingly popular in the reptile and amphibian hobby. Although there are many different species kept in captivity, only a handful are frequently found for sale. This care sheet can be applied to most commonly available Dendrobates and Phyllobates species, though I recommend researching the particular species you are interested in keeping to learn about their particular needs in captivity.
Poison dart frogs have a reputation for being difficult to keep, and in the past this was more true. Over the last twenty years, new captive care and breeding strategies have been developed that have helped establish dart frogs in herpetoculture. There is now a large selection of captive-bred species available from breeders, and many previously hard-to-find terrarium and vivarium products are now available through dealers on the Internet, from some specialty pet stores and at reptile shows. Poison dart frogs are still sensitive animals that do not tolerate mistakes well, but finding healthy frogs and purchasing the required supplies to keep them is now easier than ever. Careful planning and lots of research are the keys to succeeding with poison dart frogs.
Of the many species available, those that are large, bold, and affordable are generally best to start with. The following species have proven to be hardy frog, and are a good choice for someone looking to get involved with dart frogs for the first time: Dendrobates auratus, D. leucomelas, D. tinctorius , Phyllobates bicolor, P. terribilis, and P. vittatus . Many species occur naturally in different colors that represent isolated populations of the same species of frog. Usually the color type or morph of frog is indicated in a similar way to cultivars of different plant species, with the name of the color morph being placed after the scientific name, such as Dendrobates tinctorius ‘Powder Blue’ or Phyllobates terribilis ‘Mint’.
Avoid housing different species or color morphs together. Do not purchase frogs younger than eight weeks of age, preferably only buying frogs that are at least twelve weeks old.
When feeding a diet of fruit flies, it is very important to "dust" your flies with Calcium Powder and a Vitamin Supplement. Rep Cal is a popular brand of supplements and can be purchased from most online pet supply businesses and some local pet shops. Dust the flies at least every other day.
Place a small dish of water in the vivarium, but not too deep, since dart frogs can't swim. With a hand held spray bottle, or automated misting system, be sure to mist your frogs. Some mist daily and some every other day. Be sure to use only dechlorinated water.
The vivarium itself does not require much maintainance. Occasionally wipe down the glass and make sure the water dish is clean and free of debris and dead fruit flies. If using a false bottom vivarium, make sure the water level is 1/2"-1" below the egg crate, so the substrate does not wick up water and remain too soggy. If plants are overgrown, or dead, trim them back.
Typically when a frog dies it's due to one of several reasons. The first is infections or parasites, especially in wild caught frogs. Make sure the frogs you purchase are captive bred. Second is not enough food. Third is not enough calcium and vitamin D. I recommend feeding once a day with one to two dozen flies for each frog. They should be dusted with calcium powder, such as Rep-Cal brand, at lesat every other day and with Repti-Vite at least three times a week to prevent death from calcium deficiency or vitamin D deficiency. Lastly, chlorinated water can be a killer. If using city water, it's generally heavily chlorinated and should be treated with a de-chlorinator sold at most pet stores, or left out in a open container for a few days. Also, if you are anywhere near a pet shop that sells tropical and marine fish, they sell Reverse Osmosis water by the gallon. Lastly, exposure to chemicals, such as most household cleaning products and spray air fresheners will kill the frogs. Even if traces of the chemicals are on your hands and you come in contact with the frogs, it can be enough to kill them.
They are delicate creatures, but with the proper care, can live in captivity for many years.
Fruit Fly Culturing
Making your own fruit fly cultures will save money and is easy to do. We recommend making a couple of cultures once a week for a pair of frogs. This is the recipe we use.
1 cup of powdered sugar 4 teaspoons Methyl Paraben (to prevent mold) 8 cups potato flakes 1 cup fruit flavored baby cereal 1 cup brewers yeast 1 teaspoon cinnamon
Add 1/3 cup of mixture to a container and enough water to make it the consistency of apple sauce. Lightly sprinkle fresh baker's yeast on top, add excelsior or crumpled up coffee filters. Add some flies from a previous culture. Keep in a place that is not too dry and room temperature. Melanogaster's generally take 10-14 days to hatch out and hydei take a bit longer and don't yield as many flies.
Number of Frogs Purchased & Percentages of having Pairs